Yuhei Nakamura (中村悠平)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 154 lb.
- High School Fukui Shogyo High School
Catcher Yuhei Nakamura was picked by the Yakult Swallows in the third round of the 2008 draft. In 2009, he went 0 for 4 with a run and hit-by-pitch in his Central League debut. He went 2 for 6 with a double in 2010, again spending most of the year in ni-gun again. Nakamura was picked to play for the Japanese national team in the 2010 Intercontinental Cup. He scored their only run in a loss to Cuba and the tying run in their 2-1 win over South Korea in the 5th/6th place game. Splitting catching with Tsubasa Aizawa, he was 4 for 15 with a double, three runs and a RBI while playing error-free defense. He was not the only Nakamura on the team, which also had Akira Nakamura.
He again spent most of the season in the minors in 2011, going 2 for 6. He got a regular look in 2012 when Ryoji Aikawa got hurt; he hit his first NPB homer, off Atsushi Nohmi. In 91 games, he hit .254/.344/.292, fielded .992 and threw out 46.7% of those who tried to steal. He split catching with Aikawa in 2013 and hit .234/.325/.322 while his defensive stats dropped (.984 FLD%, 23.3% CS). The next year, he improved to .298/.355/.378, .997 fielding and 26.2% caught stealing.
The Fukui native made major strides in 2015. He made his first Central League All-Star team. In 2015 NPB All-Star Game 1, he started at catcher, hitting 9th. He singled off Yuki Nishi and came around on a sacrifice fly later from Yoshi Tsutsugo, then singled in the 5th off Hideaki Wakui; Takahiro Suzuki ran for him. In Game 2, he took over the catching for Aizawa late in the game. For the season, he batted .231/.299/.276 and led CL catchers in putouts (890), assists (74), double plays (14) and runners thrown out (23). He was named to the Best Nine as the CL's top catcher and also won a Gold Glove. He was 12th in voting for the 2015 Central League Most Valuable Player Award. In the 2015 Japan Series, he hit .188/.250/.188 as Yakult fell to the Softbank Hawks. Backing up Motohiro Shima for Japan in the 2015 Premier 12, he was 0 for 1 with a hit-by-pitch and a run for the third-place finishers.
Starting 2016 NPB All-Star Game 1 for the Central League and batting 9th, he flew out in the third against Ayumu Ishikawa and singled in the 5th against Takahiro Norimoto before being lifted for PH Brad Eldred; he was 3 for 4 in All-Star competition to that point. He sat out Game 2 as Yasutaka Tobashira and Fumihito Haraguchi did the catching for the CL. For the 2016 season, he slumped to .187/.266/.259. He fielded .999 in 2017 and rebounded somewhat at the plate (.246/.328/.326). His four triples tied Tomohiro Abe and Ryuhei Matsuyama for 5th in the circuit. He was an All-Star in 2018; in Game 1, He pinch-hit for DH Yoshio Itoi and struck out against Tatsuya Uchi. In Game 2, he took over catching for Seiji Kobayashi and grounded out against Ren Kajiya. That season, he hit only .211/.285/.287 and led the CL's catchers with 7 errors. His 22 sacrifice hits were 4th in the CL, between Yota Kyoda and Naomichi Nishiura.
In 2019 NPB All-Star Game 1, he replaced Aizawa at catcher and went 0 for 2 then sat out Game 2 in favor of Ryutaro Umeno. For 2019, he produced at a .269/.373/.384 clip with 53 walks and 24 doubles, fielding .995. He led CL catchers with 27 runners thrown out. He was plunked 10 times, tying Aizawa for third in the Central League. In 2020, he missed time to injury and hit only .175/.256/.200. Back in regular action the next year, he made his fifth All-Star team. In 2021 NPB All-Star Game 2 (he sat out Game 1 in favor of Umeno and Shosei Nakamura), he started behind the plate and was retired by Wataru Matsumoto and Yuki Tsumori then Hayato Sakamoto pinch-hit for him. He rebounded to .279/.360/.358 with 24 doubles in 2021. In the 2021 Japan Series, he hit .318 while his pitching staff had a 2.09 ERA and won Japan Series MVP; interestingly, the MVP of Yakult's last Japan Series title (2001) was also a backstop, Atsuya Furuta. He then won his second Gold Glove as well, made the Best Nine and finished 6th in voting for the 2021 CL MVP, between Robert Suárez and Nori Aoki.
His brother Tatsuya Nakamura played in Japan's independent leagues.